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Photographers You Should Know: Leroy Grannis

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Information for this article was found at Surfline.

Leroy Grannis is an interesting character. In the 1950s and 60s, he lived what many would consider the perfect life as a surfing photographer during what’s considered the “golden age of surfing.” There were few surfing magazines that didn’t have his name in the photo caption. Then, in the early 1970s, he pretty well dropped out of surfing photography and hasn’t looked back too much since.

Caption: LeRoy Grannis, 1963. A signed, dated 36x36 Chromogenic print of this photograph sells between $12,000-$15,000 US. (Photo Credit: Leroy Grannis)

Caption: Mickey Munoz, 1963. A signed, dated 36x36 Chromogenic print of this photograph sells between $12,000-$15,000 US. (Photo Credit: Leroy Grannis)

Born August 12, 1917, in Hermosa Beach, California, he learned to swim and bodysurf from his father. “Granny” Grannis reached college-age during the U.S. Great Depression and he was unable to afford a college education at UCLA, so he found work at various odd jobs. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1943 (he remained in the active reserves until 1977 when he retired as a major) and in 1946, he landed a job at Pacific Bell Telephone.

During the 50s, he surfed in some competitions but mainly helped out Hoppy Swarts with the newly founded United States Surfing Association. By 1959, he had developed an ulcer – contributed to his stressful job at Pac Bell – and his doctor advised him to find a hobby. Photographer Doc Ball, a close friend of Grannis, suggested photography and the seeds were sown.

His first published photos appeared in “Reef Magazine” in 1960. Grannis developed a device that allowed him to change film while in the water – other photographers had to leave the lineup, head for the beach and change film. He spent the rest of the decade traveling between California and Hawaii photographing some of the world’s best surfers.

Fed up with the increased competition among surfing photographers, in 1971 he quit shooting the surf scene. He tried a stint at hang gliding and made photos with that hobby but due to some injuries sustained in the sport, he gave it up in 1981.

Currently, he lives in Carlsbad, California.

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